Surprise positional outlook: First base
February, 8, 2010
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesChris Davis hit .238 with 21 home runs and 59 RBIs last season.Now that the Super Bowl is over and we're at about the 10-day window before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, let's start to take a look at the positional outlooks. Shortly after the season ended, we reviewed each position and talked about what the club might do in the offseason. Well, the offseason has been a busy one and it's altered some of the positions. So here we go. We'll start with first base.
Chris Davis goes into spring training as the starter. That isn't to say Justin Smoak, who was red hot playing for Team USA in September of last year, won't make things interesting. But the club would prefer Smoak get some more seasoning in the minors and that Davis get back to the level he showed when he came up in 2008.
First base was a problem for the Rangers all season. They did not get the production they needed from the position. That should change in 2010.
Davis, a left-handed hitter, struggled for the first time in his career last season and he had to figure out how to deal with it, something he talked about last month. He hit just .200 in April and when things didn't get any better in May -- he batted .189 with a .238 on-base percentage -- the Rangers had to make a move and send him to the minors. Davis worked hard and fine-tuned his swing in Triple-A Oklahoma City. He played a few games in late July for the Rangers and some in August and started to hit the ball better. It culminated in a very good September. Davis batted .290 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 93 at-bats (and had a .814 OPS) in the final month of the season. That gave him some momentum heading into the offseason.
Davis' defensive play was solid all season long. It's what allowed him to stay in the majors as long as he did despite the poor hitting.
The switch-hitting Smoak, meanwhile, struggled at Triple-A after moving up from Frisco. He hit .244 in 197 at-bats. But his play for Team USA ended his season on a high note and has him heading into spring training with some confidence.
The Rangers have two young players with bright futures, it appears, at first base. Look for good things in 2010. We won't make any predictions yet. We'll save those for closer to the season.